Carol Berner

Carol Berner

Driver who killed South Surrey preschooler deemed a low risk to reoffend

Victim’s family expresses hope for Carol Berner’s future, maintains those impacted by impaired driving 'deserve better' from courts

The woman responsible for killing toddler Alexa Middelaer while drinking and driving 6½ years ago was released from jail this week.

Carol Ann Berner’s freedom follows 18 months behind bars, and includes five conditions she must abide by for the next year; until the end of her 30-month sentence.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Alexa’s mother, Laurel Middelaer – who is head of Southridge Junior School in South Surrey – reiterates concerns that despite efforts to influence changes in the criminal justice system, sentences for those charged with impaired driving causing death or bodily harm remain lax.

“Those criminally charged with impaired driving including fatalities or bodily harm still hear the silent and reluctant voice from the court room,” Middelaer writes.

“As a province, as a community, as families – simply put – we deserve better.”

Berner, now 62, was found guilty in July 2010 of two counts of dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm and two counts of impaired driving causing death and bodily harm, after losing control of her car on a Delta street in May 2008, striking and killing four-year-old Alexa – who attended preschool in Crescent Beach – and seriously injuring her aunt.

She was sentenced in November 2010 to 2½ years in jail and a five-year driving ban, and subsequently lost appeals of her convictions and sentence in both provincial and Supreme Court.

She began serving her sentence in March 2013 – nearly five years after the crash that killed Alexa.

For Middelaer, Berner’s statutory release Tuesday “is not about Carol Berner.”

“As a family, we have come to a full understanding of Carol – our hope is that she now chooses to contribute to her community and family in a productive manner, hopefully surrounding herself with a peer group that will help her grow in character and strength.”

In the Oct. 17 parole-board decision, Berner is described as a low risk to reoffend, with “a lack of insight into the nature of your alcohol problem… (and) a limited understanding of your mental-health issues and their link to alcohol.”

For the duration of her sentence, Berner is not to drive, consume alcohol or attend drinking establishments. She must also participate in a treatment plan for substance abuse and “emotions management.”

Contact with the surviving victims or their family members is also prohibited.

“The victims of your offence and their families have the right to be free from unwanted contact from you,” the decision states.